Monday, 24 December 2012

Squaring the Circle (#squaring12)

Last week I attended a one-day conference in Birmingham City University, entiteld Squaring the Circle: Increasing demand, decreasing budget.  This was probably the most useful conference I've attended in the last year, because the topics were all relevant (to some extent) to my day-to-day job, but not ones that I have already researched. Damyanti has already blogged her thoughts on it so do go read those too.

The first two talks were actually in areas that I don't have much to do with at the moment, but it's possible I would have in future.  KnowledgeBase+ appears to be extremely useful to anyone dealing with eresource licensing issues, combining information about historic agreements with current advice from the KnowledgeBase+ team to ensure that universities have the information they need to get the best deal possible, while the Journal Usage Statistics Portal (JUSP) aggregates usage statistics to help to inform decisions on which ejournals to subscribe to in the first place.

JUSP infographic

I had heard Paul Stainthorp talking about Phase I of the Library Impact Data Project before, so it was really interesting to hear Graham Stone giving an update on what happened in Phase II.  The results in this more focussed study still appear to support the idea that library use has an impact on grades attained, but goes into further demographic detail on the results from one university (Huddersfield), issues of retention and more.  The possibility of developing this sort of data analysis as a service to other universities was mentioned - it sounds extremely useful but I suspect they'd have fun trying to get the stats they need from our 100+ libraries in Cambridge! Graham's presentation is on the Huddersfield institutional repository, along with the methodology and lots of other interesting-sounding articles, must investigate further later...

The presentation I found most useful and relevant of the lot was Martin Fautley's one, which gave the academic's perspective on how the library could/should be involved in Faculty research.  There was an element of preaching to the converted - yes, as information professionals we have considered the difference between information and knowledge, at length - but also an interesting and useful insight into what we could be doing.  Some are already happening in the English Faculty Library (consideration of what makes a quality library, involvement in the REF, ensuring that we are spending time on the things that are most relevant to our users),  some we are taking steps towards (be more involved in promoting Faculty research) and some we do informally but not in the structured way described (booking all research students in for a one-to-one session with a Librarian - useful for library to know what research is taking place and for the student to get a better idea of the resources available in their subject area and training/support available through the library). One idea that we haven't explicitly used yet (but probably will now) was that of explaining the research process to undergraduate students. Why do it? What are they aiming to do in their dissertations? How is that similar to/different from what academics do when writing a research article? How can students start to position themselves in the field when they're not yet familiar with the key names and concepts? This last point rang very true for me - as mentioned previously I felt I was just reaching a sensible level of knowledge to start from when I had to start writing up my dissertation.

The last two talks related to ebooks.  Jill Taylor-Roe shared Newcastle's experience of introducting patron-driven acquisition of ebooks, and the impact this appears to have had on responses to student satisfaction with library services.  Ebook purchases are triggered when the same item is requested by three different users - Newcastle specifically sought a provider that could give this level of data so they could tell which subject groups were availing of the service.  There were some problems, such as the ebook being listed above physical copies that were actually available in the library due to richer metadata available from the ebook vendor. Their solution - to suppress the 505 field.  I'm curious as to what cataloguing colleagues would think of reducing the information available in the catalogue - or maybe they just excluded the 505 from the search process? 

Jenny Rowley finished by presenting some research on ebook promotion.  I thought it unfortunate that it was based on research from a few years ago and would love to know how much has changed since this initial research, but it's always interesting to see what techniques other libraries use to promote ebooks.  This sparked some discussion, with several people arguing that we should be focussing on discovery tools rather than on specific formats.  I don't disagree that we need to promote and teach discovery tools, but would argue that no matter what we do some individuals will have a preference for walking into a library and browsing the shelves.  I think we need to both promote formats and make sure the students have the skills they need to search for the materials in whatever formats are available.  I don't see how these two things can be mutually exclusive.  Besides, I can't say I found LibrarySearch+ particularly helpful in my own research - far too many results with not the most effective options to refine by. Think I'll personally be hanging onto those subject databases, with Web of Knowledge for the broader context searching.

I was very impressed with the overall organisation of the event too, maps, directions and wifi instructions (!) sent a week in advance, lots of extra library staff about at registration and any time we had to move room so there was no fear of getting lost (extremely welcoming and easy to chat to), talks organised so that they flowed really well from one to the next.  Just generally smoothly run and they seemed to have thought of everything, so a huge thank you to the staff of Birmingham City University for hosting us!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Calling new professionals in the East of England

Reposted from LISNPN:

I'm taking over from Charlotte (@lottiemsmith) as New Professionals Support Officer for the CILIP East Members Network from January... 

I'm really interested in hearing from any new professionals living or working in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, to make sure that you're getting the support, advice and networking opportunities you need.  You don't already have to be a member of CILIP, I'd like to get in touch with as many local new professionals as possible. 

I also have a Grand Plan, to be revealed next year.  Curious? I'd like to form a group from across the region and different sectors to get the ball rolling, so join that and you'll have a sneak preview of the idea and you can tell me if it sounds like it would be useful to you. 

You can contact me here, on Twitter (@niamhpage), by the CILIP East email ( or on the LIS New Professionals Network.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

#infolit discussion group update

I've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for this group, thanks everyone!  Sheila Webber has kindly set up a blog that we can use as a central point for this discussion group, and I've added an introductory post suggesting ways to participate (all thanks to suggestions from interested participants).  We have a Zotero group that's open for anyone to join, and we're tweeting using the tag #ILread.

Looking forward to joining the discussion!

Monday, 10 December 2012

LibTeachMeet update

I've just realised that I've been terribly remiss and haven't mentioned here a (fairly) recent publication:

Tumelty, N., Kuhn, I., & Birkwood, K. (2012). TeachMeet: Librarians learning from each other. In P. Godwin & J. Parker (Eds.), Information Literacy Beyond Library 2.0 (pp. 191–201). London: Facet Publishing.

In this case study, we present the TeachMeet concept, discuss how we adapted it for use by librarians and consider how this model is spreading beyond Cambridge.  In particular, we consider the role social media had in the inspiration for and organisation of these informal peer support events, and in the dissemination of information about the events once they had taken place.

I have submitted the pre-publication version to our institutional repository or you can find the prettier published version in a library near you!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Online #infolit reading group anyone?

I have done some research in the area of information literacy, but the further I got into writing my dissertation the more I realised I still hadn't read on the subject and the more I had to consciously put articles that looked extremely interesting but weren't directly relevant to my research questions to one side for later.

Now that I'm no longer tied to a specific research project, I'd like to get back to reading some of those other articles and books that I couldn't give time to before.  Anyone interested in joining me? I'm actually interested in user ed even more broadly, for example including the learning development stuff and technical/IT skills that might or might not fall directly into definitions of information literacy.

The plan would be to hold the discussions on Twitter and through blog posts and comments, keeping things as open as possible.  I've always wanted to join the Second Life information literacy discussions but have had so much hassle trying to get the programme working properly that I haven't yet been able to, but maybe we could also link in with that if the organisers don't have any objections.

I have some initial suggestions for things I'd like to read, but feel free to suggest more in the comments:
  • Badke's Research Strategies (reading at the moment)
  • Christine Bruce's Informed Learning (suggested previously by Susie Andretta)
Things I've already read but probably should be included as well for those who haven't:
  • Revised Seven Pillars of Information Literacy and the lenses that have been developed for it
  • A New Curriculum for Information Literacy
I know there were lots of articles too, I'll go trawl my Zotero library for possibilities...

Update:  Sheila Webber, Helen Blanchett and I are now running a blog-based information literacy journal club, aiming for one discussion each month.  Check out

Saturday, 8 December 2012

MOOCs - What's the big deal?

I have been following the discussion of MOOCs in various higher education publications with interest, but the debate seems to be lingering longer than it needs to.  The conversation always seems to come back to whether the MOOC will wipe out the university, and I just don't get it.

Did the correspondence course wipe out the university? Did iTunesU and lecture podcasts stop students actually enrolling on university courses? Did the availability of factual books in public libraries mean that nobody bothered to get a formal education? Of course not!

I know others have pointed out this fact before, many times, but yet another THES article suggesting soothingly that maybe MOOCs "needn't mean the chop for universities" drove me to state the obvious.

All of these things supplement formal education and are to be welcomed, maybe even learned from! For example, I've had a look at the Learn to Program course from the University of Toronto and it's really nicely done - video intros and very clear explanations, screencasts so you can see what they're doing, in-built evaluation to reinforce learning and all at a decent pace.*  This is what distance learning should be.

The reality is that these courses are a nice taster for a subject area, a useful way to brush up on an area that you have some experience in or a way to do free CPD.  If enough short courses were linked together in a particular subject with proper assessment models this approach could replace the physical lecture hall for some individuals, but that still requires proper investment and most students need at least some face-to-face contact for motivation purposes and to fully retain the information received.  Besides, I have a vague feeling someone's thought of that model of education already...

*I usually find technical training gets pitched at the complete computer novice or is geared towards the technical professional, with very little aimed at the reasonably technically-minded person with no real training but some basic experience to build on (= me!).